The Duke’s Weekend Preview – Kentucky Derby & Guineas

The Kentucky Derby is the biggest race in North America. Millions of people will tune in to the ‘Run For The Roses’, nicknamed as such after the garland of red roses presented to the winning horse and draped over the neck.

Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore are teaming up with Mendelssohn to try and beat the Yanks in their own backyard. Will they do it?

Mendelssohn won the UAE Derby in very impressive fashion. His rivals were still turning for home when he’d passed the line and hosed down. His Beyer Speed figures are strong and it was a good performance. However, the race has never produced a Kentucky Derby winner. His pedigree is strong, as he’s a half-brother to the superstar Beholder. Combine that with the fact he’s trained by the world’s greatest trainer and ridden by the best jockey on the planet and what could go wrong?

Well, his odds are very short. That race at Meydan was his only run on dirt and it was  great but it’s hard to know if that was a flash in the pan. That makes the other horses in the race better value. Justify should be favourite -and HE IS on the Vegas sportsbooks. His highly impressive performance in the Santa Anita Derby is, in my opinion, the form to go with. Magnum Moon is also cracking value at around 10/1 after smashing the field in the Arkansas Derby. I’d love to see Aidan and Ryan bag a winner for the boys but as a betting prospect, take Justify for the win and Magnum Moon each way.

Now onto the 2000 Guineas and here’s a horse by horse guide…

Cardsharp – Heavy ground was a possible excuse at Deauville on his seasonal return, but the bigger concern would be that his form as a two year old would not be good enough to win this

Elarqam – Unbeaten as a two year old, I liked the way he stretched out to win the Tattersalls Stakes, really responding well as they came to challenge him. He’s sired by Frankel and out of a filly called Attraction who won both the English and Irish 1000 Guineas, so his pedigree is very special too. He is my pick.

Expert Eye – Plum last when sent off favourite in the Dewhurst and later found to be lame. He won the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood last term but he’s not for me. His dam was nothing special and his sire Acclamation has generally produced sprinters, so a mile may not be ideal.

Gustav Klimt – Aidan O’Brien’s first string on paper, so he should be respected. He won a trial for this race at Leopardstown last month in pretty testing ground but his run in the Superlative Stakes last year was on better ground, so he looks quite versatile ground wise. He’s by superstar sire Galileo but I’m not bowled over by the relatively short odds.

Headway – Won a Listed race at Lingfield on his reappearance. It wasn’t a particularly quick time, but he did show a good finishing kick. I’d worry in this much better race that he will be left with too much to do.

James Garfield – We tipped him a couple of weeks ago here at The Gambling Times, when he defeated Expert Eye in the Greenham Stakes but he would probably need to improve to win this. Frankie Dettori is on board and he has an each way chance.

Masar – Won the Craven Stakes but that was a moderate contest for the grade. He’s nicely bred by a Derby winner so I suspect he could still be improving. However, it was a slow Craven and he appeared to get first run on his rivals. On that basis he may have been a bit flattered by the winning margin. Not ruled out.

Murillo – He’s by Scat Daddy who produces horses with plenty of speed such as Lady Aurelia and Acapulco. As such, Murillo was placed in sprints as a two year old including third in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot. He ties in closely with Rajasinghe (1st) and Headway (2nd) on that run. In other words, probably not good enough.

Nebo – Charlie Hills’ runner looks a bit out of his depth on  what we have seen so far. He raced eight times as a two year old and he looks to enjoy really soft ground. Unlikely to be good enough.

Raid – David Simcock’s charge is unexposed having only had two starts. He won a maiden at Doncaster before finishing a near 4th in the Greenham, staying on. He’s sired by Havana Gold who was best over a mile, so Raid has place claims.

Rajasinghe – Speedy two year old who, based on his two runs towards the tail end of last year, may have been an ‘early type’. He may have already peaked and the trip of a mile could also stretch him.

Roaring Lion – Drifted in the market after defeat in the Craven Stakes but he was not asked a question after Masar go first run. More concerning was that he didn’t appear to like the dip in the Newmarket track. His breeding is US through and through, however he did win the Royal Lodge over course and distance. He is a conundrum but he is certainly too big in the market.

Saxon Warrior – Unbeaten winner of the Racing Post Trophy. He got his head back in front after being hampered that day and it takes a good horse to recover momentum so quickly. He will enjoy a step up in trip in time but he has a very live chance here. Personally, I think he’s the best of the Ballydoyle contingent.

Tip Two Win – A Listed performer who has been winning in Doha (Qatar) against inferior opposition. He would be a shock winner.

Pick – Elarqam

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